Attractively sited on the fast-flowing Metauro river, this
striking small town is surprisingly rich in impressive buildings
and works of art. Formerly known as Castel Durante, it was
renamed by Pope Urban VIII in 1636, shortly after the last Duke
of Urbino handed over his lands to the Papal States.
The imposing Palazzo Ducale (above) was originally a 13thC
feudal stronghold later given airs and graces by Duke Federico
of Urbino - his favourite architect, Francesco di Giorgio
Martini, was responsible for a large part of the facelift.
Cross the gracious courtyard to see an appealing museum of
paintings, ancient maps and globes, and Renaissance ceramics
(16thC Castel Durante boasted 32 majolica or painted pottery
Other monuments to note while strolling in the shade of the
arcaded streets include the Bramante Theatre (Urbania is one of
two towns claiming the great Renaissance architect as its son)
and the church of Santa Chiara. The last Duke of Urbino,
Francesco Maria II Della Rovere is buried in the Chiesa del
Crocifisso; like many other buildings in Urbania this church was
badly damaged by Allied bombing in 1944.
You'll find the town's strangest offering behind the altar of
the Chiesetta dei Morti in Via Ugolini - the Cimitero delle
Mummie. Here a dozen leathery mummified corpses hang like
washing in a row of glass-fronted cabinets. They were put on
display in 1813 after their discovery in the ground below,
preserved by a rare type of mould. The custodian takes great
delight in opening the cupboards to show you the body with stab
wounds and the pregnant woman with a mummified foetus - great
fun for children.
If you arrive from Sant'Angelo in Vado look out for the striking
Renaissance villa just before the town - it was once a hunting
lodge for the Dukes of Urbino.